Yup. You heard me right. I am in recovery and I don’t believe in god (and you don’t have to either).
You may have arrived here because you are pissed off that I would even say such a thing. Or perhaps you don’t believe in god either and find comfort in knowing you don’t need to in order to recover. Maybe you are curious to learn how one could be spiritual and not believe in a god. Or maybe you are a spiritual skeptic with deep faith in the church of science. Or perhaps you are one of those who stands between the worlds.
Whatever the case may be, I welcome you to take a moment to first consider this question.
Do you need to believe in your ability to breathe in order for it to happen?
To survive we must inhale and exhale. Through our breath we are in an interdependent relationship with the world around us. At its most basic level this connection is physical. A chemical exchange of giving and receiving. All living creatures, the trees and plants, fellow humans, and animals rely on this sacred union to survive (also known as the green breath, read more about this here). The act of breathing is an experience shared amongst many living beings. When we stop breathing, we cease to exist.
I don’t have to believe in breathing to have it work for me.
My body, the earth, and its inhabitants continue to inhale and exhale on impulse, without thinking or having an opinion on the matter. We have this connected experience of expansion and contraction without giving it any thought at all. It is a process, a second by second ritual, that will continue to occur for as long as this earth exists without a need for any creature to believe it is so.
The word spirituality comes from the Latin root spirare, which means to breathe. In my experience, the spirituality of this act is the relationship to the breath. The giving and receiving, the exchange and connection created as the result of the willingness to simply breath – is spiritual. The unified cycle of expansion and contraction reflected within our physical bodies, the earth, her creatures and seasons, and even across the universe. This spiritual exchange may also serve as a metaphor for what we breathe into being. Our purpose. Like blowing on the tinders of a flame to spark inspiration and new hope to continue walking towards our purpose.
Even this spark ignites itself without our belief that it is possible. This relationship to the world around us exists without our opinion on the matter. Our actions have consequences. The exchange of energy is always moving and sparking more flames. These flames, in turn, burn away to create space for the new.
And the wheel turns. Stay with me here.
One of my favourite quotes is by a beloved Reclaiming Witch and sacred mentor, Starhawk. People often ask her if she believes in the goddess. She responds:
“Do you believe in rocks? We don’t believe in the goddess, we connect with her.
The phrase ‘believe in’ itself implies that we cannot know the Goddess, that she is somehow intangible, incomprehensible. But we do not believe in rocks—we may see them, touch them, dig them out of our gardens. We know them, we connect with them. In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess—we connect with her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. [ through our breath ] She is here. She is within us all.
Still don’t “believe” me? Let me share a story with you from my skeptical, yet spiritual, little heart.
I was first “introduced” to my coach, Shari Hampton and her passion project Served Up Sober on the SHE RECOVERS Podcast. The way she shared with humour, grit, and grace really struck me. She is resilient. A truth-teller. A change-maker, and a no-bullshit-tell-it-like-it is-from-right-where-she-is-at kinda human with a true heart, self-compassion, sacred presence, and wit for days. She transformed her wounds into words. Alchemized her pains into passion. She holds deep reverence and gratitude for those who have walked the path before her. She honours and acknowledges her mentors. She had what I longed for.
So when Shari offered to be my Coach, I was like WHOA. But it doesn’t end there.
At the end of our first session she said to me “I encourage you now to take some time for yourself. Hop in your infrared sauna and just let our session land.”
I agreed that I would do that. I wanted to take time for myself. I intended to pause. In that moment when I said yes I meant it.
But I didn’t do it.
My intention for self-care was fleeting and overpowered by my workaholic brain. Work is one of those addictions we still have to have a relationship with, so navigating this particular addiction is a daily process and some days are more balanced than others. I went straight back to work. No pause. No break. No breath, just….work. And in my defense, I LOVE my work, so it is SO EASY to let this happen. It is no excuse but I am also grateful that I didn’t. Why? Paradox, right?
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
I remembered two days later, that I hadn’t done what I said I was going to do. I hadn’t kept my side of the agreement and I certainly wasn’t being impeccable with my word. I was in the middle of packing up to visit my husband who lives on another island of 350 people (a story for another time) when it came to mind. I dropped what I was doing and I reluctantly hopped in the sauna, because keeping my word, no matter how late, is a value of mine.
As I sat in 120-degree heat I began reading ‘How to not always be working’ by Marlee Grace. A book I have made several passes through over the last few years. In the book, Marlee talks about living the simple life. Going offline as much as possible, only spending time on social media when it is an energy gain, and being very intentional and ritualistic about her self-care. Ritual plays a significant role in my patchwork of recovery and is something I practice regularly. The act of ritual is a lifeline for me, at times. So Marlee’s words are a welcomed reminder of my own sacred nature.
She also speaks about her podcast in the book. Marlee takes Polaroid photos of her guests and episode images to again avoid screen time. I thought – how clever. I have a Polaroid camera that I love to use (most photos being of my dog and my fingers caught in front of the lens).
Then my workaholic brain took over. Again. “What is this podcast?” “How could I not remember the mention of this the last three times I’ve read this book?” “Why haven’t I thought of using my Polaroid camera for digital marketing?” “How do you scan Polaroid photos without losing their analog quality?”
I quickly open the sauna door. The cool air hits my skin and I reach for my phone.
As someone who holds shungite while using digital devices to protect herself from EMF exposure, it is rather strange that I would abandon this fear and bring my phone into the sauna. I am sure there are some wacky EMFs going on in that scenario that completely negate any potential healing coming from the infrared waves.
Yet I persist.
I begin my frenzied search for Marlee’s podcast. I go to her website, Instagram, then her Link tree. I can’t find a ‘How to not always be working’ Podcast but she’s got a link to one called Nurtured and I am intrigued (and either in a blackout workaholic episode or highly spiritually driven – I’ll let you decide) so I follow my impulse.
“I need to find these Polaroid pictures.”
I click on the link and I land on Episode 18 : Redefining Vulnerability with…..Shari Hampton.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that Shari Hampton is my coach, who suggested I spend time in the sauna to let our session land and I didn’t do it?
Simultaneously the ‘How to not always be working’ book falls off the sauna shelf onto my lap. It opens to a page with a previously highlighted passage that reads “You don’t even have to practice awareness, you just have to simply be willing to be aware.”
Touche, universe. I am listening. I am willing to be aware.
As a fairly savvy marketing professional, I KNOW there are no algorithms in the world sophisticated enough to manufacture this series of events. This is some straight-up, internet faery, spiritual gangster level magick. Since being on the path of recovery, embracing earth-based spirituality, and connecting with like-hearted humans, this kind of shit happens to me ALL THE TIME. Because goddess knows I need BIG SIGNS and constant reminders to stay the course. Navigating addictive behaviors is tough but by “simply being willing to be aware” the universe / god / goddess [ insert your preferred label here ] saves my ass every. single. time.
So yeah. I don’t even have to believe in god to have a power greater than myself conspiring to support both personal and collective liberation. I just have to be willing to be aware and connect with the sacredness that exists within, around, and beyond me. And perhaps take some action like going in the fucking sauna when I say I am going to and allowing myself to be in awe of the breath that we all share.